As the year draws to a close like the end of a roll of toilet paper, I am running a series of three posts about the creative life: Reflection, Resurrection and Recreation.
Reflection addresses those who have stopped creative activities, while Resurrection (Sunday) addresses the need to stop creative endeavours. It all leads to New Year’s Day (Tuesday): Recreation.
Reflection – why have you stopped being creative?
Have you paused to ask yourself why you stopped being creative? Has your once prolific creative output reduced from a torrent to a dribble? Or is the well of creativity nothing but a cracked dust bowl?
Here are five reasons you have stopped being creative (and a plea to start being creative again):
1. Logic and Reason Replaced Emotion and Passion
Once upon a time, perhaps when you were a child or a teenager, you were passionate about creating something: you wrote or painted or composed or gardened. Whatever it was, you were passionate about it; you engaged emotionally with your creative process.
But that passion and emotion you threw into creative endeavours was replaced with the cold push of logic and reason. Artistic, creative people were typecast as overly emotional, passionate and highly illogical.
You were encouraged to put away childish things and focus on more adult pursuits. Emotions are considered primitive brain responses to be suppressed, ignored or detached. The Vulcans have a lot to answer for; I’m looking at you Spock.
Creativity gives equal balance the emotions and to logic and reason. Great art comes out of logical, reasoned thinking AND impassioned, emotive thinking.
What you create is a product of your logic, reason, emotion and passion. Tap into it again.
2. Career Over Hobby
What did you dream about doing as a child? Did you want to paint? Design clothes or fashion? Did you want to write?
These pursuits are often considered a hobby, not something you make a career from. Too often creativity is seen as a hobby, a pastime to be indulged in during holidays or the occasional weekend. It is not valued as worthwhile because it at best it does not produce income, or at worst, it costs money, time and effort.
Instead our chosen career path dominates our time and resources, pushing creative endeavours to the periphery. The regularity of what we do for a living is a drain on our time and resources. If you have a family, there are still greater demands on your time. The chance to be creative is reduced, pushed out as a thing you do when you have the time or the inclination.
Being creative is something you make time for. It refreshes and rejuvenates. It is not a hobby to be done in spare moments; it is a vital extension of all facets of your life.
Rediscover the joy of your hobby.
3. Pragmatism Over Recreation
When was the last time you did something creative simply because it felt good for you? Or did you feel guilty, feeling like you should be doing something more productive? Have you put pragmatism over the need for recreation and rest?
We are obsessed with knowing, with proving something through empirical data and evidence, hypothesis and conclusion. We do something because it is proven to be beneficial or productive. Creativity does not easily fall into a pragmatic category therefore people are wont to give it up.
Creativity is not neatly defined by a formula or pattern. Creativity is a chance for recreation, to pause, to rest, to have a sabbatical.
Because you can.
Because you need to.
Your best reason to create is “just because.”
4. Utilitarianism Over Culture
In Aldous Huxley’s “Brave New World” utilitarianism creates a consumptive culture: If it is not for the greater good, if it is not productive and beneficial, if it does not advance, it is not deemed worthwhile.
Culture is not measured in scientific or technological progress alone. It is measured in the greatness of art produced. Poetry, art, philosophy, literature, film, drama are the benchmarks of a culture. The paucity of good art needs addressing because we have made creativity and art something we consume, a fast food meal. Creativity can never be mediocre.
In recent years, especially in Australia, the government’s investment in creative activities such as literary awards has waned. Funding cuts to reduce budget deficits hit creative spheres first. They are deemed unimportant. (The rights and wrongs of this need not be debated here; there are other ways to fund creative projects).
The culture of a society, a community, a family and as an individual, is created consciously and unconsciously. If you do not participate and contribute to a creative culture, another culture will dominate.
Creativity can appear to be frivolous and wasteful, a solo production without discernible benefit to someone other than the creator.
Take a risk and develop a positive, creative culture. Start with yourself then extend it to your family, your community, your society.
5. Structure Over Boredom
Throughout our infant and adolescent lives, we are run by timetables. School provides a rigid structure, chronicling where we need to be at any given moment. A university timetable is less rigid, and a workplace gives broader latitude, yet the moments of our day are accounted for.
We fear boredom if our children are not engaged in a meaningful activity. Boredom promotes creativity (when was the last time you were bored), allowing the subconscious time to percolate, compost and rejuvenate. Stimulus is good for the brain but it also needs to rest.
Have you filled your life with so many activities you do not have time to rest, to be bored in order to be creative?
Schedule some down time to be bored.
Creativity is not a tacked on adjunct to life; it is an integral part of it. To lessen its role in our lives is to diminish the fulfilment creativity brings. Creativity brings life, that you may live it to the full.
Creativity is not self-centeredness but a means of recreating yourself and the world around you.
Will you dare be creative again?